Sky was still jumping at shadows.
Or, in this case, the yipping of little puppies.
Leah wasn’t acting as if she suspected there was a problem, but that wasn’t doing a thing to assuage Sky’s nagging guilt.
The futile need to hide from herself did lead her to spend more time doing things she usually didn’t think about. She was having a nice chat with Aral when her phone rang.
On the other end of the line was Xia Wu.
“Where did you get my phone number?” Sky hissed as she ducked into the bathroom.
“The alumni directory,” Xia answered. “Where do you think?”
Oh. Sky was a lot easier to contact than she’d thought. “Um, Xia–” she said, casting about for a gentle way to sever ties with the other woman.
“I think my girlfriend knows we did it,” Xia said.
Sky choked. “Girlfriend? You have a girlfriend?” She wasn’t sure if she was disgusted or reassured that Xia had screwed up just as badly as she had.
Meanwhile, Veronica was calling a realtor. “I don’t think I can live here anymore,” she said. “You kids are all grown up now, and you don’t have to follow me. I promise to stay in touch.”
But of course the Samples weren’t going to let her move out on her own at her age. Veronica had cared for her children all her life with the same passion she dedicated to everything she did. Not only could Sky and her brothers not bear to think of leaving her alone, it would just make the hole Charles had left twice as big.
Compared to that, a house was nothing.
Sky took responsibility for house hunting with her mother, and she guided them toward a sprawling estate a bit closer in to town — Arbor Estate.
Before they knew it, everything was packed and ready to go. It was Veronica who lingered longest to say goodbye to the last house Charles would ever live in.
Moving day was gray and rainy.
Sky was already making plans to remodel the interior. All the wood was growing shabby. She wanted something a bit more contemporary, colorful, and maybe a bit of industrial.
The first thing Veronica did was upgrade the fireplace. She didn’t want that kind of fire hazard near her grandson.
In the new warm living room, Sky took time to play with Dylan and help him adult to his new home.
He was such a determined little fellow, quiet and focused.
Meanwhile, Leah caught sight of someone lingering at the gates of the estate and went to investigate.
“We just moved in,” she said cautiously. “Can I help you?” The stranger certainly didn’t LOOK threatening.
In fact, she looked, well…. Leah’s breath caught. She had never been so captivated by the gaze of another woman.
“I’m Plum Marmalade,” the stranger said. She searched Leah’s face for recognition. “Do you life with Sky Sample?”
“I’m her fiancee,” Leah said firmly. “We haven’t set a date to get married, but it will be soon.”
“Oh, I didn’t know she was engaged!” Plum said, her voice distraught. “I don’t want to upset you, but I think there might be something going on between my girlfriend Xia and Sky. I pay the phone bill, and there have been a bunch of phone calls from Xia’s phone to Sky’s number in the last few weeks. I asked her about it, and she wouldn’t give me an answer. I’m not sure what I was looking to find by coming here. I just wanted to get an idea of what’s going on.”
Leah listened grimly, her eyes flashing. “Sky wouldn’t do anything inappropriate,” she said, hoping her certainty would convince both of them. “She does a lot of publicity work for our band, Ghost Writer. It’s probably something to do with business.”
Plum’s eyes were big and earnest, and Leah felt herself sinking into them. “You really believe that?”
That’s how the conversation started, but it just kept on going. Leah was sure she had never met anyone as easy to talk to as Plum. It was like their souls were bared to each other, and they knew each other’s secrets without asking. The rain stopped, and the first pinks of dawn began to creep over the horizon.
Plum and Muscadine Marmalade showed up the evening that the Samples moved to the new lot. As soon as they met, Leah started rolling wishes for Plum. They’re both Hopeless Romantics. That scene was where I realized that Leah and Sky were in really serious trouble.
I warned you that the farm house didn’t last long. Here’s where I gave up on the frustrating landscaping and moved. I like the new lot, but it was made with a lot of fiddly floor elevation tricks. Mostly, it’s fine, but I think the next house they live in will be as simple as possible.